We came for the Corona Virus. We stayed for the Saharan Dust Cloud. Some much fun in Austin right now....NOT.

The last of the blue skies for days....

That movie, "A Perfect Storm" seems to have had one of the most prescient titles. The whole point of the movie is about when everything goes wrong at once --- making everything worse. 

Austin, and Travis County are now among the four areas in the state of Texas that are experiencing explosive, near exponential increases in Covid-19 cases this week. Seems we opened up the bars and dens of iniquity way too early which sent a signal to everyone under 50 years old that we've entered the "ALL CLEAR" period of the pandemic which would allow them to sit inches away from each other, guzzling down White Claw and tequila while shouting in each other's faces to be heard over the loud music. Now they're all coming down with nasty symptoms and positive tests... So much for flattening the curve.

I think the "careful re-opening" was all a secret I.Q. test and I hope we get a prize for being in the group that kept our masks on outside our homes, made infrequent, quick and careful runs for groceries and spent the rest of the time either writing photo blogs or reading books. 

Of course, spending time at home or in my private and secluded office means more time to watch on the web as the U.S. economy continues to collapse and to listen to commentators discuss what might happen when all the unemployment money starts running out. Or when the evictions of renters will begin. Which can't be good for my mental health. 

So, on top of all this we're being visited by a giant, miles thick cloud of dust that's blown over from storms across the Saharan Desert. According to my local weather service we're experiencing very unhealthy air quality --- right now. The air quality index is normally 10 here in Austin. It's why we're usually outside running and swimming and taking deep breaths. Right now the air quality index stands at 166 and the advisories are warning people at risk of respiratory problems not to leave their homes, and for the rest of us to limit/curtail our outdoor activities. Bummer. 

The ominous cloud presence been here since yesterday (Friday the 26th) and should be hanging around tormenting us until past Wednesday. I probably won't go to swim practice tomorrow morning since I think the tiny particulates being sucked into my lungs will probably offset any aerobic benefit. Hoping by Tuesday that we have some relief...

The crappy (or good) thing about this particular hardship is that there is no one in government or on the other side of the political divide that can be blamed. Ah, the dust storm that united us...

I've got electrostatic filters and HEPA filters in the A/C system and I'm wearing a mask while I'm sitting here typing in my less rigorously pollution-controlled office. Can't remember if dust storms call for drinking more red wine or more white wine, or just defaulting to that bottle of Ben Milam Whiskey in the pantry...

One thing I've figured out though is that this is not the time to take a long stroll with an expensive and adored camera and lens. Dust is probably the second most pernicious thing for photo gear. I think I'll give all the optical stuff the week off and let them sit in their dust free storage areas. It's the least I can do for good gear. 

Reminds me of Biblical stories. Book of Job anyone?

Just a housekeeping note: I added more writing to today's earlier blog post about the future of Micro 4:3. Circle back and see for yourself.

Here's the link: https://visualsciencelab.blogspot.com/2020/06/panasonic-continues-on-with-micro-four.html

Panasonic continues on with micro four thirds. Why? And for how long? Note that all predictions based on "data-free" research are suspect....

Panasonic Lumix G9. Ready to photograph or make video with its 12-60mm Pana/Leica lens and a Zomei variable neutral density filter. Don't count m4:3 out just yet. Now it's a one horse race....

Right off the bat I should mention that I don't research Japanese business websites or magazines and I'm not privy at all to the private conversations of camera makers. This is all just off hand prediction larded with some wishful thinking --- but I would be sad if the m4:3 format got abandoned altogether. It's got a lot on the plus side of the ledger, not least of which is the portability and the deep selection of lenses that work on it.

Reading across the web and especially over at Bythom.com the consensus seems to be that Olympus might survive in some form but it won't be anything that we've been accustomed to. The worst case scenario is that the venerable camera company is spun off and a new generation of Japanese vulture capitalists pick through the carcass and sell off the parts (patents?) that will generate the best return. Thom Hogan suspects that the new owners will preserve some sort of down market camera presence mostly for the Japanese home market and geographically adjacent markets but that the products will be mostly one step up from point and shoot models, at least in terms of functionality and appeal.

Many Olympus owners and users, myself included, are seeing this announcement of Olympus's divestment of the camera division as an apocalyptic moment.

While I am disappointed that I won't continue to have as wide a range of choices I am taking much consolation in the fact that, for now, Panasonic will continue to be widely available and, if press chatter from the company recently is believable, very committed to continue innovating and producing cameras and lenses in the m4:3 space alongside their full frame, S1 line of cameras and lenses.

I've been a user of the smaller sensor, m4:3 cameras since their introduction and have owned a wide selection of both Panasonic and Olympus cameras and lenses. But in recent years, especially since Panasonic got their color science figured out in the G9 and later cameras, I've consistently voted with my dollars in the Panasonic camp; at least when it comes to bodies. Here's why:

I find the larger body size of cameras like the GH5 and the G9 to be easier to handle and operate while being better balanced for use with longer lenses. I suspect that this is one of the biggest difference in the selection process between the two companies offerings. Olympus muddied the waters with the EM-1X but that came so late in the game it wasn't a tipping point consideration for most of us who already invested one way or the other. The feeling of a camera in one's hands is one of the most subjective appraisals in selecting a camera model but perhaps one of the most important.

While I owned pre- m4:3 Olympus 4:3 cameras as well as just about every generation their mirrorless cameras I have to say that I've never experienced worse menus. Reviewers and all but the most rabid fans have begged Olympus for nearly a decade to fix their menus but to no avail. Yes, yes, I know that once you've sat down with a slide rule, the Rosetta Stone and a hieroglyphic translator you might, for a fleeting moment, gain enough insight to quickly set up a SCP (super control panel?) selection of settings which might prevent having to make too many more journeys into the writhing and labyrinth, deeper menus to find a special setting.... But life is too short and as I grow older I find my tolerance for having to continually decipher information from a poorly assembled series of illogical menus frustrating. "Over my shoulder I do hear times winged chariot drawing near...."

While the Panasonic menus are not perfect they do offer a straightforward and understandable journey.
To be clear, I was able to effectively use my Olympus cameras  in spite of their menus. Once you have your finger on the shutter release it doesn't matter as much...

The other avenue that pushed me to prefer spending money on the Lumix/Panasonic cameras over the Olympus cameras is Panasonic's dogged and effective pursuit of all things video. The GH4, GH5, GH5S and now the G9 have all been exemplary video cameras for me. In fact, my recent re-purchase of the G9 was specifically to serve as a quick to shoot and highly reliable video camera solution after I donated the FZ2500 I'd been using for the same purpose to the theater.

My belief is that this concentration on video is what will provide a bit more longevity in the format for Panasonic. Unlike photographers videographers aren't always pursuing ever increasing sensor resolution or super thin depth of field. Their priorities are about keeping the images in focus and having enough depth of field to cover whole scenes instead of individual subjects. The m4:3 cameras represent a great entry point for new filmmakers but the Panasonic cameras also deliver a level of video quality and control that can be used well by much more advanced users. System buyers should be able to use their cameras well beyond their neophyte years and still get sellable, credible results. And, with 4K video any resolution beyond 8 megapixels on the sensor is irrelevant.

Panasonic has also taken pains in their cameras targeted to semi-pro video users to provide not only a good image but also good sound and the ability to plug in both headphones and microphones. When I used the Olympus EM-5ii cameras for a restaurant video we selected them for two reasons: 1. the really nice 1080p files (color, low noise, great tonality) and, 2. for their incredible image stabilization, even when using older, legacy, manual focus lenses. But we were less impressed that we had to buy and add a battery grip to each body in order to add a headphone jack.

When I recommend hybrid cameras to younger artists who want both a good video and photo solution the G9 is always my first choice. It's a great blend of beautiful color and great video capability in an affordable package.

But....while I may not miss the Olympus bodies I will definitely miss their lenses. It's funny; when I went to Iceland in Fall of 2018 I took along two G9 bodies (shooting just photographs) and a collection of lenses but my "go-to" lens was (by a massive margin) the Olympus 12-100mm Pro series lens. Just phenomenal. Even better than the Leica badged Panasonic Leica 12-60mm f2.8-4 I have now.

In the same time period, when I used the G9s to successfully shoot stage shows at Zach Theatre my "perfect" lens for that application was (again, by a massive margin) the Olympus 40-150mm f2.8 lens. And the images from that combination still stand up well to all the full format cameras and lenses I've pressed into the same applications...

While I'm reticent to spend too much money in the middle of what might be a year long adventure without income I do have a strong desire to try the Olympus 25mm f1.2 Pro lens because I can only imagine how great it might be. That one and the 45mm Pro. I'll be looking for them before the market dries up.

So, for now I count all of us in the m4:3 camp as lucky. While my friends who are Olympus camera users will no doubt be miffed by the turn of events they will also be consoled by the fact that Panasonic has finally gotten to the point where their cameras are close to the Oly cameras for color science and, in the latest generation, the image stabilization is 95-98% as good. Far better than the I.S. in larger format systems.

Yes, it's true that it might be hard to find replacement Olympus bodies in the future but being able to keep the lenses you own and not have your investment be orphaned is comforting.

I think there are a number of reasons still to have m4:3 cameras and lenses even in this age of full frame market dominance. They create files that have a different look and feel to them that works in many applications. They are great travel cameras. There are great video cameras in the system and the reach-for-the-size-and-weight ratio is unmatched at the telephoto end.

Were Olympus the sole maker of their camera mount and lens mount last week's new would have been traumatic for users. But with an open standard and a strong competitor in the system it's best to look on the bright side and continue to enjoy what we have.

Just a thought as I played around with a G9 over coffee this morning. I see some fun lens shopping in my very near future. Now scrounging through the couch pillows for lost change.....

Added: I forgot to talk about why Panasonic might want to persevere with the m4:3rds cameras even after having launched the full frame S system.  Here goes: 

Panasonic has had quite a few successes in the m4:3rds space. Their stated rationale for continuing on with the format was to be able to offer photographers a choice of tools, depending on their use. I think they see the bigger, heavier, full frame cameras as working tools for more traditional photographers for whom heavy cameras are just a small part of the overall equipment package for assignment work.

If one is already transporting light stands, lights, modifiers, props, assistants and wardrobe then the added weight of a larger camera system is really not felt. Most working professionals and serious, serious hobbyists are more inclined to say that "ultimate image quality" is their most important consideration.

While I have the bigger cameras because I want to provide commercial clients with great results I also know that for most of what we do for clients all the major formats (all the way down to 1 inch sensor cameras) will provide high quality photographs, when used correctly. The larger formats and higher resolutions provide me with an iron clad argument, to picky clients, that I have fulfilled and exceeded the unwritten standards of the industry, from a technical point of view, even if their projects are not all as demanding as they might think. Still, the larger camera sensors take away points of hesitation and friction.

But Panasonic stated in an interview with editors at DPReview.com that they are intent on keeping the micro four thirds camera line specifically for all the times when portability and handling take precedent over that last 5% or so of image quality. One might have the big cameras for the kind of day-to-day advertising work we do while also maintaining the smaller, lighter system to press into service on all those budget jobs that require one to: a) work without assistants. Which means carrying everything myself. b) work on multiple, remote locations which requires packing down cameras and lenses to fit on even the smallest regional jets without having to check the valuable gear. Which means a complete system in a small backpack that fits under the seat in front of me! c) For location work like the projects I did in the Everglades and in the California wildfire areas back in 2018 which required high mobility and the ability to carry all the needed in a backpack while walking for miles in oppressive heat and humidity.

I think the real value of these smaller, high image quality systems is in being able to make wonderful and fully competitive images in most conditions, where making prints of up to 13 by 19 inches shows no real advantage for full frame, while being portable enough to take almost anywhere.

When I selected cameras for the trip to Iceland I wanted tools that were sturdy, reliable, weather resistant and which would give me a wide range of focal lengths in a small package. My entire kit with two bodies and four lenses, plus extra batteries fit into one smaller photo backpack and was manageable even in driving rain and snow. All the while a lens like the Olympus 12-100mm f4.0 gave me a hand holdable full frame equivalent of 24-200mm which also delivered great (in lens) image stabilization. This meant no lens changes needed for almost everything I shot. My working method was to use the 12-100mm one one body and the Panasonic 8-18mm lens on a second body. Since both bodies were identical everything was interchangeable. Which is exactly what you want in a back-up body.

Finally, I think Panasonic will continue on for the foreseeable future with m4:3 because they've established a great reputation and good marketplace for smaller cameras that offer incredibly good 4K video which, in some vital respects, out performs the larger and more expensive cameras. They were first to market with workable and high quality 60fps 4K while the smaller sensors add two valuable performance benefits: Much better heat handling in video (longer run times, less noise, longer life) and also better image stabilization performance than is currently available in even the best FF cameras when performing video.

An afterthought: Panasonic stayed in the market along with a good competitor who produced great products. They split the market for small sensor/mirrorless cameras while sharing an open lens mount standard between them. With Olympus exiting the area they now inherit potentially the entire other half of the m4:3 market. They will have gone from a marketplace that was tough and so competitive that it was hard for either entity to make a big (or any) profit to a point where they will have no direct competitor in their market niche. And enviable position to find oneself in and one that's ripe for maximization.

If Panasonic's marketers were savvy then the minute the transaction with Olympus and NewCo goes through they should reiterate their key value propositions, re-state their m4:3 features and benefits and start a full court press on the advantages of the smaller, highly capable and decidedly less expensive system. They have a fan base. They should spend some time and $$$ exploiting it and locking it in.

Just a thought.


Kirk Changes Camera Systems (AGAIN!!!) but without selling anything off. "You mean this is actually a mobile telephone too?"

Another day with an empty downtown. Might be the safest place to 
walk in all of Austin, Texas. 

On Wednesday I found out about the Adobe "Photo Shop Camera" app for the iPhone and downloaded it. I played around with the goofy filters and posted a few things to Instagram and then I got tired of it. But yesterday, when I decided to go for a walk I thought long and hard about cameras I could bring along. 

I had just downloaded the firmware update for the Sigma fp so that might have been a logical choice there hasn't been enough time to play with the new upgrades so I took that one off the list. I'd been mulling over trying out the video in the G9 now that its firmware has also been updated so I took that camera, along with the Panasonic/Leica 12-60mm lens and a variable neutral density filter. My brain designated that camera as a "video" camera so when I got to the bridge there was some inertia that led me to hesitate putting it back into "photo" mode just to get a quick shot of downtown. A shot I've made many times before. 

Instead I just grabbed my iPhone. It's an XR. It has one lens. And it's a wide angle one at that. But it's quick and easy to use and the automatic HDR capabilities are really great. The XR makes sunlit landscape shots that have wonderful tones and colors. And they never get too contrasty. But I do want to emphasize that these were all done with the native "Photo" app and to the new Adobe one. 

After I took and evaluated my first shot (above) I was hooked. The G9 hung by my side for the rest of the early evening walk and I embraced the XR as my sole photography device for the rest of the time. 
It was the right day/time for it; the clouds were being dramatic and expressive and I preferred to break the shooting into two distinct parts. I would select the subjects and compositions and I would let the camera do all the grunt work of getting exposure, color balance and focus right. A nice division of labor. 

When I got home I looked at all the photos on the phone and started pulling them, mostly untouched by the heavy hands of post production, into this blog post. Now that I've seen for myself how good the camera in the XR is I'm using it more and more when I need wide/fast shots, and when the end product will be shared on the web. It's easier to get the right tonal balance with contrasty landscapes than it is with a conventional camera like the G9 or S1, mostly because I would have to spend time and energy trying to get everything just right after the shoot. With the iPhone I can just depend on the results of a couple hundred scientists with Phd.'s working their butts off at Apple to make just the right algorithms and machine brainiac-ism to make sure the little machine gets a higher hit ratio than I would. 

So, in a sense, I've done my instant conversion to a new system. My phone. But in this case no other cameras were sold off and nothing new was purchased. In fact, the total cost was the half hour I finally spent figuring out the camera software on the phone. But be forewarned, I will be diving into the latest and most advanced iPhone I can find as soon as it is announced and available. These cameras are great. 

And the black and white conversions are......perfect. 

Masked for the walk in open air. Trader Joe's Grapefruit and Lemon spray hand sanitizer in my pocket. 

"Bat" bridge in the background...

Blog Note: Please don't advise me that a Samsung or Google phone has a better camera. I won't believe that Fake News and I've drunk so much of the Apple Kool-Aide that all my dress shirts are stained and my teeth are Apple colored. 

Thoughts about life, photography and walking around aimlessly in the heart of Texas. During a pandemic...

When I dragged myself out of bed at 5:15 this morning it was dark outside. By the time I got moving up the driveway the first light was just mumbling and shuffling over to the east and then I could see a fine sprinkling of dust across the car's windshield. Swim practice got off to a goofy start. Most coaches arrive, swing the big wooden door to the club open and then wander off to turn on lights and unlock the guard room. That's where the club keeps their digital (I.R.) thermometer. The thermometer with which the coaches now test every swimmer with before allowing them into practice.

The open door tells the swimmers, who start to arrive around 5:55, that the coach is on the premises and it's time to come in and get ready for the workout. Today coach Will got to the club early, went in and let the big door close behind him. We arrived and seeing the door closed (but unlocked!) we dutifully waited in the parking lot. After five minutes or so someone walked over and tried the door. We were collectively embarrassed by our own passivity.  We came into the swimming pool compound and rushed to make up for lost time.

Yes. I wore my face mask from the car to the side of the pool. Austin, and the rest of Texas, are seeing exponential increases in Covid-19 cases and health authorities warn we are about to exceed the capacity of our ICU's.

I saw a clever post on Instagram yesterday. It read:

"Wearing a mask is NOT a political statement. It's an I.Q. Test." 

Even with a late start the group was able to knock out about 2400 yards. A bit short of our usual target of 3200 but then nobody is perfect...

It was a beautiful morning when the sun came up. There was just enough Saharan dust to take the hard edge off the sunshine. I got home in time to walk with Belinda through the surrounding hills for an hour so I've had my quota of exercise for the day. And it's a good thing I got an early start because now it's pouring down rain. From Saharan Dust Storm to aggressive rain showers in the space of 15 minutes. So much meteorological fun here.

I posted the video above just for fun. I was playing with my phone yesterday as I walked. Later, when I thought back about my late afternoon walk through the central core of downtown, I decided that the epicenter of Austin was probably the safest place in which to walk for exercise. I passed maybe 12 or 15 people, total, on the sidewalks as I strolled through. Like me, most of them were masked.

Walking is a good time for reflection. We've been staying home and shying away from most aspects of business since near the first of March. I thought we were starting to see the virus getting under control but then came the news of spikes all over the South and Western USA. Kind of hard to believe that we, as a country, constitute only 7% of the world's populations but have managed to contract over 25% of the confirmed cases of Covid-19. It's an indictment of our cultural proclivity to be selfish to an abnormal degree.

What I'm coming to realize is that we might not go back to work for our regular clients, doing photography the way I've always enjoyed it, for the rest of 2020. Certainly, large events are off the table, and so are projects that require air travel.

But a business is not something you can toss into the deep freeze and then pull out and thaw and expect it to spring back to life. There is a constant erosion that goes on when the "store" goes black. Clients find other content.  New suppliers who are more desperate rush to take risks that more financially strong vendors don't want to accept. A high number of former clients choose to leave the workforce or are forced to change to other jobs; jobs which might not entail the hiring of photographers at all.

So here I am in my office in Westlake Hills (a suburb of Austin proper) surrounded by miraculous toys and sturdy gear with no pathway to effect their use. I've just downloaded the latest firmware for the Sigma fp but have no one to stand in front of the camera while I shoot video. I've just paid for another quarter of liability and general insurance for the business but have no venue in which to screw up and create liability.

Sure, there will be small projects. Next week I'll photograph (carefully) another radiologist in my studio. But the big, sustaining projects like annual reports, capabilities brochures and advertising campaigns remain on hold. The vital ones being done by in-house marketing people wielding cellphones as video cameras and snapping away with the company Canon Rebel someone in their public relations department bought a few years back.

I'm shelving my plans to re-open in the near future. We'll see how things look around here in September. But even then we'll be working with a reduced palette of job types. Realistically the first green shoots of business will probably come next Spring.

With all that having been said, I am still looking forward to every little personal project I can think of. I'm still impressed by the quality and functionality of the Panasonic S system. I still adore the Sigma fp even though I'm frustrated at not being able to hire models and shoot fun stuff with it. And I'm getting to the professional, platinum level when it comes to taking near perfect naps in the afternoon.

Belinda admonishes me to stop worrying about the business and figure out what I would do if I had all the time and money I ever wanted. And I do reflect on that. But sadly, the answer is that I'd love to be out photographing.

Hope that vaccine hits the market soon. Hope it works. Hope there is also an effective treatment about to be launched. I'd like to be out on the road again soon.

All good here though. Just watching the rain and typing. Time to break for a coffee. Thanks for reading.


A firmware update to the Sigma fp will add the ability to shoot ProRes Raw Video to Atomos digital recorders. Shooting down one big hurdle for video users.

It's been pretty well known since its introduction that the Sigma fp's primary reason for existence is to serve as a compact, but very high end, video production camera. While I love shooting photographs with mine most owners tend to buy the camera for the idea of being able to shoot uncompressed raw dng video at up to 12 bits. 

But video users quickly discovered that 12 bit, 4K, uncompressed raw video files take an enormous amount of very fast storage if you are going to take advantage of the format. Many users who thought they'd be fine shooting the big, raw video files (me...) soon decided that there might be a better compromise. To a certain degree our desire for smaller files is about to be answered in Sigma's firmware update to v2.0. 

Once implemented the camera will be able to save video to either of two well regarded formats: ProRes Raw and Black Magic Raw. I know from watching an interview with a Sigma developer that you'll need an Atomos recorder and updated Atomos software to use the ProRes Raw recording (I think the file conversion happens in the Atomos) but I'm waiting to see what you'll need to take advantage of the Black Magic Raw files. In either case you'll have much more control over compression which will allow for much more manageable file sizes. In the case of ProRes Raw you'll be able to take the resulting files directly into Final Cut Pro X while the Black Magic Raw files will load directly into DaVinci Resolve (available in a free version!). 

This is great news for people who want to try out, or work with, raw video files but who did not look forward to stocking up on a supply of Samsung T500 SSD drives, or the need to pull the current .dng files into Resolve, apply corrections and then output an editable file for Final Cut Pro or Premiere. 

Also included in the firmware update is the ability to completely turn off any of the "looks" or "profiles" applied by the camera when shooting raw. This will allow super serious artists to see exactly  what the linear raw files look like (very flat and desaturatured) instead of seeing them presented with what is basically a contrasty and more saturated LUT applied. 

As soon as the needed firmware is added to the Atomos devices I predict an uptick in the number of videographers embracing the fp. Of course, none of this will change the value proposition for still photographers. You'll continue to either love, hate or be indifferent to the camera depending on your ingrained perspective. And that's okay. 

the very first 21st century movie camera.


I read the press release about Olympus selling off their camera division and it immediately reminded me of the fates of Polaroid and Kodak. Salvaged for the names and parts.

There is a press release from Olympus posted over on the DPReview.com website. Go there to read it if you want the details. The TL:DR is that Olympus is "carving out" its camera division and selling it to a Japanese holding company which plans to "operate" the concern with the intention of continuing to make cameras, lenses and accessories. But I think we've all seen how this kind of corporate move plays out. It's more of an exercise in salvage than anything else. 

I know many folks will rush to blame Olympus management but it's good to be rational and admit that the whole camera sector is being beaten like scrambled eggs right now and Olympus is a small enough player which makes the beating so much harder. Even before the pandemic camera sales in nearly every category have been falling, year-over-year. Now, with massive unemployment growing in every corner of the globe the ability and desire on the part of  most consumers to rush out and buy more cameras seem like fantasy. 

The Olympus cameras have always been alluring. From the compact but potent size of the bodies to the flashes of sheer brilliance in lens design Olympus offered a fun and highly competent alternate option to all the homogenous cameras that Canon and Nikon pumped out into the digital markets over the last 20 years. Olympus has also been at the forefront of innovation with things like industry leading image stabilization. 

My first brush with Olympus cameras was playing with my wife's OM-1 film camera back when we were dating in the college years. It was the perfect camera for her smaller hands and logical way of operating. Later, when I was working in an ad agency I discovered the amazing world of Olympus Pen F, half frame film cameras. Olympus designed (in the late 1960s and early 1970s) and built an entire professional system around the idea of the half frame camera. A camera that would take 72 shots on a roll of 35mm film. It featured a rotary, titanium shutter that sync'd with flash at all shutter speeds. Right up to the top speed of 1/500th of a second. The camera used interchangeable lenses, many of which were brilliant and beautiful optical tools. I still have a collection of my favorite lenses from that era (1970's) and still use them, with adapters, on current micro four thirds cameras. They are also a good match for Sony a6x00 series cameras and most of the lenses amply cover the APS-C sensors. 

It was fun to use the very robust and solid Olympus digital bridge cameras, the E-10 and E-20. We did solid, commercial work with those 4 and 5 megapixels, all-in-one cameras over the course of a year. In fact, it was this line of cameras that helped transition thousands of former film photographers into digital photographers. 

The E-1 camera (pictured above with Amy) was a magnificent camera but probably one that led the company down the path to where they find themselves now. In the early part of this century the costliest part of every digital camera, by far, was the sensor. The bigger the sensor the more astronomical the price. I don't think Olympus did a good job at predicting how quickly sensor prices would drop. They went all in on the smaller sensor and designed all of their new lenses around the geometry of a sensor that is a quarter the size of a traditional, 35mm type sensor. But over time the majority of camera buyers pined for the "full frame" they had become used to in the film days.

The lenses for the Olympus DSLRs were/are so cool. My favorite was the 35-100mm f2.0 zoom lens. It was a heavy beast but it was sharp wide open and so much fun to play with. Their lens line-up for their conventional DSLR m4:3 cameras was ambitious. It was also built on three tiers. There was a consumer line which was mostly slower zoom lenses. A step up line that featured good glass and better build quality. And then there was a professional line of lenses that were, for the most part, uncompromising. Looking back one can see that their 7-14mm lens was a game changer for the industry. Super-wide and super sharp. 

Olympus was so far ahead of their bigger competitors that they, along with partner Panasonic, killed off their first interchangeable DSLR systems and made the switch to a mirrorless concept years ahead of any other camera company. It was a brilliant move and opened up the modern, digital camera world to the use of legacy lenses from a vast range of system on a modern camera. I loved the ability to use old Pen F lenses, Leica lenses, Nikon lenses and so many other on the system. 

For a while I was all the way into the Olympus system and found a remarkably good value in the second generation of the OMD EM-5 camera, the OMD EM-5ii. The image stabilization was, at the time, like science fiction. The video capabilities of the camera were highly underrated as well. My friend, James and I used multiple EM-5ii cameras and a box full of lenses to make this video: 
https://vimeo.com/137964319  In the five years since we did this newer cameras have launched featuring 4K video files and some improvements but the files from that time frame, out of the EM-5ii never stop impressing me when I re-visit the video...

Olympus have always had a loyal following for their cameras and lenses. Even after I moved on from the camera bodies I still had a love affair with the lenses. The one Olympus lens I really regretted selling was the 12-100mm f4.0 Pro series lens which I used extensively on Panasonic G9 cameras. It is a superb lens. Absolutely wonderful. And the 40-150mm f2.8 was/is...perfect.

I'd like to be optimistic and hold out hope that the new company will take the ball from Olympus and run for some new and worthwhile goals. I'd hate to see the choice of Olympus's alternative vision removed from the marketplace. They have consistently made wonderful and inventive products and produced them at a very high level. 

If they fall into the same Hell as Polaroid then who will Sony steal new innovations from? 

I have no way of predicting the outcome. I have no idea if the products currently on the market will see a run up in price and a rush to hoard them against some future shortage. Or, when the direction of the new company becomes obvious will these jewel-like cameras hit the wall causing a sell off of orphaned system parts? 

Sad either way. The long shot hope is the new camera company rising like a Phoenix and mounting a dramatic comeback. We can always hope.

Photos from the EP-2 taken on a trip to West Texas in 2010.

I downloaded Adobe's new PhotoShop Camera app for phones and... well... I guess I need more coffee. Maybe even a pastry...

So, maybe I've already broken it. I downloaded the new app to my iPhone XR and started playing with it. The app works kinda like the regular camera app but you can use all kinds of "lenses" to take the photographs. Not lenses as we traditional photographers understand lenses but "lenses" as an alternate term for "special effects." Or just weird effects. These are from the "Pop Art" lenses. 

There are other "lenses" that will make even the blandest and grayest skies come alive with saturated blue and puffy clouds. Other lenses will "help you" take a portrait in which everything but your face, or the face of your subject, is out of focus. You can download "lenses" (treatments?) from the app and use them to make your photographs.....different. 

PhotoShop Camera is included in your Adobe software bundle for free. Even my $10 a month Lightroom+PhotoShop subscription includes this magnificent and valuable new imaging tool (sarcasm alert for the linear and humor deprived reader). 

I've packed up all my other cameras and am sending them off to KEH.com today because this new tool will revolutionize how we make photographs from this day onward. I can't wait to read the reviews on the smart blog sites. (again, alert. Not really getting rid of cameras........yet).

Are you as excited by all this as I am? 


I've been reading an enjoyable book about writing. It's a different perspective on writing than I remember from school. And...pictures.

From the reading spot.

My favorite spot to read books is on the big couch in our living room, flat on my back. In the middle of the afternoon sharp, clean light flows in through three large sets of double French doors. There are two Hunter ceiling fans moving cool air around. And a small stereo on a cabinet at one end of the room; today it was playing an old Enya album; but not too loud.

I get antsy if I'm there on the couch for too long. I'm not yet used to the quiet "schedule" and I feel vaguely guilty for not being out somewhere sweet-talking a client and trying to figure out how I'm going to light an un-light-able space before some important person in a suit shows up, ready to get on with it.

I gather up my modern necessities and head the little white car to the local Starbucks. My favorite afternoon drink is a small cappuccino made with whole milk. Please add an extra shot...

There's a place in the central park that's never crowded on the weekdays. It's in a circle of live oak trees where there's an old picnic table made from cement. Even though the table sits in speckled shade the heat and humidity of a sunny afternoon, after a hard bout of morning rain, is uncomfortable enough to present a nice contrast to the homey luxury of my living room. Sometimes a bit of friction helps concentrate my mind on what I'm reading. The bright and public location pretty much ensures that I won't take an unscheduled nap...

My friend, Patty is a good swimmer and an even better literary editor. When she discovered that Ben (my son) wanted pursue a career as a writer she started finding him more -- interesting. From time to time she'll send me over a text, which I'm supposed to forward to Ben, with suggestions for books and articles that she finds helpful in her own writing and editing practices. As a doting father I'm always appreciative of people trying to guide my kid closer to his goals. 

Last week she made a few new book suggestions, one of which was called, "Several short sentences about writing." by Verlyn Klinkenborg. I took a look at the book on Amazon and read the few pages they allow as a preview. I ordered two copies of the book. One for me and one for the boy. He'll get his copy this evening when he comes for dinner but I cracked my copy open on Sunday afternoon and I've been picking at it ever since. Or maybe it's been picking at me...

After I understood the rhythm of Klinkenborg's writing I found that I couldn't put the book down. I took it up this morning, sitting in the stuffed, white chair in our bedroom and read for several hours. After a lunch of Greek Yogurt, muesli and fresh blueberries I moved to the seductive, gray couch. When Enya finished her performance of "Paint the Sky with Stars" on the little stereo I felt like a change of venue. The park was perfect. Right on the edge of too hot and too humid but with just enough breeze to tease me into sticking around and finishing the book.

This book, along with a copy of the ever useful Elements of Style, seem like a wonderful, basic set of manuals for any writer. At any stage in their career. The last book about writing I enjoyed this much was "Bird by Bird" by Ann Lamott. If you are a writer you might enjoy it too. It's a nice way to gambol through an afternoon in the Summer. 

It's been an unusual day. At 6:00am this morning, as the early masters swimmers were arriving on the pool deck for our workout it started to rain. Hard. The swimmers hopped in and started the warm-up while the coach went to find an umbrella. 

The rain came and went and came back again. Sometimes gently and sometimes in torrents. The swimmers, already wet, ignored the rain and spent the hour following the black lines up and down the lanes. We were lucky. As everyone was exiting to make room for the next, larger group the coaches started looking nervously at weather apps on their phones. Nature made the decision for them with several bright flashes of lightning and some impressive thunder. And just like that the 7 a.m. workout was cancelled. 

The rain was constant at our house until mid-morning and then the skies slowly started getting lighter. By lunchtime it was a bright and sunny day, complete with steam coming of the rapidly warming streets. 

Since I'm not working much I've been paying closer attention to the stock market. My favorite stock went nuts and shot up by nearly $10 a share. I felt rich until Belinda reminded me that even in finance there is such a thing as gravity. 

Now I'm back in the studio and I have the urge to buy something. Anything. Maybe I'll order one more extra battery for the Sigma fp. It came out of hiding today and prodded me to include it on the trip to the park...

Ben is coming over this evening to celebrate father's day. One of his friend's fathers tested positive for Covid-19 virus two Sundays ago so he and his roommates have been quarantining themselves. He missed Father's Day. We're celebrating tonight with BBQ and a great looking bottle of wine our neighbors sent over. It's good to celebrate together. I'm looking forward to it. 

But I can't go overboard because we've got swim practice tomorrow morning at 6, and there's the next book in the stack to read. Such a busy time...


Walking around shooting black and white with my "pretend" film Hasselblad.

You're probably tired of me talking about how much I loved shooting in the square with a bunch of film cameras. Cameras like the traditional Hasselblads, the Mamiya 6, and the Rollei 6000 series. I even have a folder full of Tricks-X negatives that were made on an old Rolleiflex twin lens. I preferred the 80mm 2.8F Planar version even though I'd heard (many times) that the 75mm 3.5F Xenotar was the sharper lens...

Now I just find film annoying. Like changing your own oil filter in the driveway. But I still like the look of the square frame and the grittiness of my old black and whites developed in Rodinal 1:50. So, when I find a likely candidate to stand it as a digital "imposter" camera I'm always game to give it a try. 

Today's attempts were done with the 47 megapixel Lumix S1R. I chose it because I wanted to use the 1:1 (square) crop and I still wanted to end up with over 30 megapixels of information in the files. I tweaked the L. Monochrome settings by reducing the noise reduction, choosing the green filtration, boosting the shadows a bit and pulling down the highlights by the reciprocal amount. 

Remembering how much I liked shooting with the 100mm Zeiss f3.5 Planar on the old 500CM I recruited my closets equivalent, the Lumix 50mm f1.4 S Pro lens. I used f2.8 for most of the shots because that simulated my almost obsessive use of f5.6 on the medium format lens. 

It was hot and sticky today and I didn't spend too much time outside in the afternoon. Walking in high humidity, when temperatures are in the 90's, is much less comfortable with a face mask on.

But I was happy with the images I ended up with. I'll do this experiment again but next time I'll invite a beautiful model to walk with me so I can photograph a person for a change. But the camera and lens? They worked well for me. 

Pandemic Retail.